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Because of different uses and different histories, three major temperature scales are used for thermometers.  So when somebody tells you the temperature, it’s important to know which scale they’re using!

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Fahrenheit – This scale was created by German scientist Daniel Fahrenheit, the inventor of the mercury thermometer, in 1724.  Fahrenheit made extremely accurate measurements of a mixture of ice, water, and ammonium chloride (which he set at 0˚F), the temperature of water as ice just forms on it (32˚F), and the human body (which he set at 96˚F).  Later this scale was changed slightly, so that human body temperature became 98.2˚F, and because of the very exact measurements Fahrenheit’s thermometers gave, it became popular around the world.  Currently, however, most countries have changed to the Celsius system.

Celsius – Swedish scientist, Anders Celsius, came up with the idea of a new temperature scale he called “centigrade”, which divided the difference between the freezing (0˚C) and boiling points (100˚C) of water into 100 degrees.  His scale was easier to integrate into other 10-based metric systems and has now become adopted around the world.   To convert °F into °C, you can take the °F temperature, subtract 32, and then divide by 1.8 to get °C.  For example, 74°F -32 = 42, 42/1.8 = 23°C).

Kelvin – The Kelvin scale was first proposed by Scottish Lord Kelvin as a scientific scale based on the concept of absolute zero, the temperature at which all movement in matter would stop or freeze (−273.15 °C or −459.67 °F).  In 1954, an international group of scientists created the scale and named the units after Lord Kelvin.  Kelvin and Celsius scales have the same different between units, but the K temperature is 273.15 degrees higher than Celsius.  For example, water freezes at 32°F = 0°C = 273.15 K.

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